conflict & communication online, Vol. 6, No. 1, 2007
ISSN 1618-0747




Bruno Baltodano, Jared Bishop, Jay Hmielowski, Jezreel Kang-Graham, Andrew Morozov, Brion White & Susan Dente Ross
Discourses of Blame and Responsibility: U.S./Canadian Media Representations of Palestinian-Israeli Relations

To test the assumption of a deep cultural divide between Canada and the United States, the researchers employed critical discourse analysis to examine the texts of one U.S. and one Canadian newspaper as artifacts and productions of the two countries' cultural inclinations toward international conflict and peace. The authors found differences in the intensity and pervasiveness of pro-militaristic discourse in the two nations' media texts but did not find evidence to support the thesis that Canada and the United States are divided by profound and intractable distinctions of values, beliefs or cultures. Instead the two newspapers demonstrated a noteworthy similarity of language, tone and text that presented shared perspectives on distant political and electoral initiatives in Israel and Palestine.
Several strong similarities appeared across some two years of news coverage and political statements in Canada and the United States about the Palestinian parliamentary and presidential elections as well as the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Five familiar themes emerged to present Israelis and Palestinians in largely dichotomous and oppositional terms. When the news context was an election or a withdrawal from occupied territory, rather than military aggression, media nevertheless represented the two parties as engaged in a zero-sum game. The consistent narratives of "othering" established and re-enforced narrow roles for both parties, placed blame and responsibility, and charged Palestinians with the (often unilateral) obligation to resolve the conflict.
This media coverage demonstrates a convergence rather than a division of cultures across the longest undefended border in the world. These findings also support earlier work establishing the prevalence of "war journalism" in mainstream news coverage by the West. In news contexts that might have provided an opportunity to embrace significant components of Johan Galtung's concept of peace journalism, neither the Canadian nor the U.S. newspaper did so, choosing instead to rely upon the time-worn tactics of oppositional reporting.


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On the authors:
Bruno Baltodano is pursuing a Ph.D. in political science at Washington State University. A native of Nicaragua, his research interests include political psychology, faith and revolution, and group behavior.
Jared Bishop is completing his master's degree at Washington State University. He intends to continue on to a Ph.D. to conduct research on ideology and alienation as manifested in discourse and, more generally, in communication.
Jay Hmielowski is a master's student at the Edward R. Murrow School of Communication at Washington State University. He plans to pursue a Ph.D.
Jezreel Kang-Graham is working on a Ph.D. in communication at Washington State University. His areas of research are international/intercultural communication, organizational communication, discourse analysis, and the discourse of international organizations.
Andrew Morozov is a Ph.D. student at the University of Washington who completed his master's degree in communication at Washington State University.
Brion White is earning his master's degree in communication at Washington State University. He plans to pursue a Ph.D.
Susan Dente Ross is director of the Graduate Group on Peace Communication (GGPC) at Washington State University, which conducted this study. Associate professor of communication and associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Dr. Ross is an expert in media law and peace journalism and a Fulbright Scholar who has published widely in communication and law journals including Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Communication Law and Policy, conflict and communication, and Mass Communication and Society. For additional information about this article or the GGPC, please contact Dr. Ross.

Address: Dr. Susan Ross, Edward R. Murrow School of Communication, 213 Murrow East, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164 USA